Life and Meaning


Life and Meaning


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The Chicken, the Cow and the Carp

By Jason Endfield. Copyright 2004.

Long ago in the garden of a small farm, there lived a chicken and a cow. Also in the little space was a tiny pond and in it swam a carp. The three were friends and the chicken and the cow would stand at the edge of the pond and all three creatures would discuss together many things.

One warm, Summer's day, the three friends gathered to talk and the conversation turned to the subject of 'Life' and what it meant to each one of them.

"For me," began the chicken, "life is about mind - you may think I just peck around in the dirt all day without a care in the world; the truth is that all the time I am thinking, always contemplating life and what it means. Then in my coop at night I study hard all the mysteries of my existence. Because study is what life is all about."

The chicken ruffled it's feathers and pecked at a small insect passing by. The cow shook her head; "I beg to differ," she began, "although I do spend a little time grazing, I mostly work very hard. You know every day I pull the heavy plough for hours with the farmer at my side and I return home exhausted; that, however, is the true secret of a good life - hard work. There is no time left to think or to study. Hard work, that is the answer - of this I am sure."

The carp popped his head above the surface of the water and blinked. "Of course you are both wrong," said the fish, "all I do is rest at the bottom of the pond. Yes, sometimes I come to the surface or swim once around the edge of my small home; but truly, the best way to spend one's life is by sleeping and resting."

The chicken clucked impatiently as if tutting, "my dear fish, that is merely being lazy - I tell you the life of study is best." The cow mooed and shook her head, "you are both wrong - hard work, that's all, nothing else will do."

The three began to quarrel and the farmer, hearing all the mishegaas, ran out from the house into the garden; "Stop all the quarreling already!" he shouted at the animals. The chicken, the cow and the carp all stopped arguing and stared at the farmer. "I have been listening to you all," began the farmer, "you all seem to think you know your purpose in life and you all think you have the answer to what life is all about - how wrong you are!"

The farmer gave a deep sigh. "It is written," he said, "that our destiny belongs to G-d and not to us; only G-d knows what is written for us in the Book of Life. Can that which is written be changed? This is a question that even the greatest Rabbis have never dared answer, let alone a rabble of animals like you! There is the possiblity of course and that is why we ask forgiveness for our sins on Yom Kippur - the rest we must leave to Him, making sure that we live our lives as best we can."

The farmer gave an other weary sigh and continued; "I have done my best for the three of you by challenging your natural destinies, by protecting you from the fate of your brothers and sisters.... the true meaning of each of your lives was thus...." He looked at the three animals in turn, "for you chicken - chicken soup!, for you cow - chopped liver!; and for you little carp - gefilte fish! My suggestion to you all now - don't tempt destiny lest it remember you!"

The three animals gulped hard. Never again did they try to understand the meaning of their lives. From then on the chicken pecked, the cow grazed and the carp swam.

Jason Endfield is a UK based Jewish writer. He is currently seeking commissions and can be contacted via:


from the May 2004 Edition of the Jewish Magazine




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